In summer 2002, student groups from Gonzaga College High School, Loyola Blakefield High School, and Jesuit High School of Sacramento, CA, contributed funds and labor toward the construction of a rural clinic in the DR. This clinic was long a dream and need of several remote coffee-farming communities in the Juncalito muncipality. The clinic director, Felicia Puntiel Pichardo, named it Centro Asistencial San Gregorio, after one of her favorite saints; in November 2002, two months after the clinic opened its doors, Felicia delivered her daughter-in-law’s first child, who was named Gregorio. (Watch slideshow below to see the clinic under construction.)
The clinic is small– just two bedrooms, with capacity for four patients at a time, with an additional room for storing medicines– but the area’s needs are great. Felicia, who volunteers her time, sees an average of a patient a day, sometimes as many as 12 in one 24-hour period. Patients are invited to pay a nominal fee for treatment or medicines if they can, but many cannot, and no fee is assessed. Patients include both Dominican families living permanently in the area, and Haitian migrant laborers; in both cases, some patients travel many miles on foot to reach the clinic.